Why dementia is not linked to 'Senior Moments'

A US study into dementia1 has suggested that having a momentary memory lapse - otherwise known as a "senior moment" - is not necessarily anything to worry about. While this can happen to people of any age, older people are normally more concerned in case it is the beginning of dementia.

However, the study suggests the real danger sign is when people are unaware their memory is fading.

The study examined a group of 2,000 people for a period of 10 years. Participants were given memory tests every year, and during the test around 10% were diagnosed with dementia.

The study found that a lack of awareness over a fading memory started about 2.6 years before dementia developed. It also found that having a drop in memory awareness was associated with the characteristic features of dementia at brain autopsy.

The size and length of the study was a strength, although the people included were not a very diverse population. It is also difficult to identify a cut-off point between being aware of memory problems and the time when we have become unaware. However, it has shown that friends and family can help watch out for the key sign of loved ones becoming unaware of memory loss, and ensure treatment is sought if they become concerned.

Reference

1 Wilson RS, Boyle PA, Yu L, et al. Temporal course and pathologic basis of unawareness of memory loss in dementia. Neurology. Published online August 26 2015

News sources

Senior moments? Only worry if you DON'T notice them: Becoming oblivious to memory problems is found to be sign of the onset of dementia. Daily Mail, August 27 2015

Dementia sufferers 'stop noticing memory loss two years before condition develops'. The Guardian, August 27 2015

Dementia sufferers start losing their memory up to three years before disease takes hold. The Independent, August 26 2015

Worrying about senior moments shows mind is still in good shape. The Daily Telegraph, August 26 2015

Do you have 'senior moments'? Research shows that might not be a bad thing. Daily Mirror, August 26 2015

Forgetting your senior moments is sign of dementia. The Times, August 27 2015 (subscription required)

Why senior moments show you haven't got dementia. Daily Express, August 26 2015